Should you advertise during big media events? Lessons from Alibaba’s Singles Day sales

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Big media events generate oversized audiences and excitement. Think the AFL Grand Final or even the cricket this summer. But are they a good place to ‘sell’ products or services? Maybe, maybe not.

The date 11/11 may be Remembrance Day for us, but to the people in China and very recently, to the digital marketers across the globe, it signifies the biggest ‘event’ in e-commerce. It is called Singles Day.

Alibaba, the China e-commerce giant and no. 7 in the world’s largest companies based on Market Cap (ahead of Samsung and JPMorgan Chase) has made this date an annual shopping extravaganza.

It has become so big in the last three years. That age-old shopping extravaganzas like Black Friday, Cyber Monday or even Amazon Prime Day look like amateurs.

Actress Nicole Kidman is just one of the sales spruikers they engage.

If you want to know more about Singles Day, please have a look at this video from CNBC. (It is four minutes but worth it).

This year, Alibaba sold goods worth US$30.8 billion; if I have to put it in perspective, in 2017 sales on Black Friday reached ‘just’ US$5 billion, Cyber Monday was US$6.6 billion and Prime Day was US$4.2 billion and this was over the course of 36 hours unlike 24 hours for Singles Day.

So, this excites the marketer in me and I ask myself, should I with advertise on Alibaba platforms during this sale?

Well, I feel I won’t do it and here are the reasons for my decision:

  • There won’t be any free search traffic available as big corporates will pay top bucks to get the eyeballs and hence it will be very expensive to buy traffic on its site.
  • If I must, I will use P4P (Pay-For-Performance) services so I know I am getting rewarded for the money I am spending and not be lost in the jungle of messages.
  • My preferred strategy would be to rely more on content marketing and viral marketing around the event and will start before the sale to get maximum mileage.

Interestingly the global brands like Apple, Nike, Skechers, Samsonite and Volkswagen were the top performers in their category on Alibaba. Yes, you read it correctly, Volkswagen.

Not only cars, you can even buy pre-fab houses – perhaps for a retirement village – on Alibaba. Check out this link if you don’t believe me.